“Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream” is a mainstream production and therefore contains a number of exaggerations and falsehoods. It does, however, make one important concession: namely, that Hollywood — and the industry it spawned — was “largely the product of six movie studios… run for over 30 years by a group of Jewish immigrants” with “strikingly similar backgrounds.”
The 1hr/42m film goes on to explain how these studios, under exclusively Jewish ownership, spent the next several decades using their new medium to create an artificial “American Dream.” As the narrator explains in the introduction: “This is the story of the founders of Hollywood; the story of the idea that became their America — and ours.”
Quoting a host of Jewish film experts, “Hollywoodism” answers the contentious question of Jewish influence on the movie industry straight from the horse’s mouth: as Author/Historian Aljean Harmetz states: “I’m not sure that there was an ‘American Dream’ before the Jews came to Hollywood and invented it.”
Based on Neal Gabler’s best-selling book, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, the film tells the story of a small group of Jewish immigrants who transformed the technological novelty of moving pictures into the most influential art form of the twentieth century.Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount, Carl Laemmle of Universal; Louis B. Mayer, of MGM; William Fox of 20th Century Fox, and Harry Cohn of Columbia; were all immigrants (or children of immigrants) who reinvented themselves as Americans. In the process, they transformed America.
“Modern America first saw light on a Hollywood screen,” the documentary begins. “It was largely the product of six movie studios, established in the 1920s, and run for over 30 years by a group of Jewish immigrants” with “strikingly similar backgrounds.”
The moguls — virtually all of them Jewish — included Harry Warner of Warner Bros., born in Poland; Samuel Goldwyn of MGM, also born in Poland; Carl Laemmle of Universal Pictures, born in Germany; Louie B. Meyer of MGM, born in Russia; Adolph Zukor of Paramount Pictures, born in Hungary; and William Fox of 20th Century Fox, also born in Hungary. Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures was born in New York to German-Jewish parents.
Author/Critic Neal Gabler states: “All of these men who founded Hollywood were born within a 500-mile radius of one another — and all of them wound up within 15 miles of one another in Los Angeles.”
The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson, epitomizes in cinematic terms the conflict of the Jew in America. The elderly cantor of a synagogue on the Lower East Side of New York City assumes that his only son will follow in his footsteps and retain the orthodox traditions. But the son would prefer to be an entertainer and goes against his father’s wishes. Years pass and Jakie Rabinowitz, the cantor’s son, has become Jack Robin, a nightclub singer. The crisis comes when the elder Rabinowitz cannot sing the “Kol Nidre” on Yom Kippur and the congregation pressures the young jazz singer to fill in for his father. But Jack’s Broadway opening happens to be the same night.
As Gabler describes this situation: “Jack’s quandary is that he can bring Judaism to show business, but he cannot bring show business to Judaism Ö which is to say that Judaism cannot be reinvigorated or revitalized in America or by America. It is alien to it.”
The Jazz Singer has a happy ending. Jack’s producers allow his Broadway premier to be postponed a night so he can sing the “Kol Nidre” in the synagogue. Then, in his show business triumph, the young Jewish entertainer appears in blackface, “one minority disguised within another,” singing “Mammy” to his mother seated in the enthusiastic audience. The son of the immigrant gets the best of two worlds.
The film explains how, in the late 19th century, these men immigrated to the USA from Eastern Europe, where Jewish populations allegedly faced persecution at the hands of the Russian czar. No doubt exaggerating the extent of Jewish suffering, the narrator explains how, “without warning, death could come crashing down on the defenseless schtetls, reminding the Jews that, as a people, they were permanent outsiders — vulnerable and powerless.”
The future founders of Hollywood came to America with little money, “but they brought with them a new vision of America,” the narrator states. “Hollywood was a dream, dreamt by Jews fleeing a nightmare.”
In 1912, after a brief stint in New York (where, according to the film, the movie business was “monopolized” by bad-guy Thomas Edison), this small band of determined Jews set up shop in California, where they met with instant success. By 1920, they had established their own film studios and began producing hundreds of movies every year.
Interestingly, “Hollywoodism” — while stating that the moguls first came to America “with little money and few belongings” — does not explain how these monumental business ventures were initially financed.
[The 800lb. Gorilla poses this thought: perhaps the six studios, all set up simultaneously by Jews of “strikingly similar backgrounds,” were all financed by the same source — i.e., Rothschild — from the very beginning. This certainly appears to have been their modus operandi in most other industries, where so-called “competitors” are actually controlled by the same forces from behind the scenes.]
By the 1920s and 1930s, “seventy-five percent of all Americans went to the movies at least once a week,” the film explains, while movie houses had become “temples of the new Hollywood religion — Jewish values made kitsch.”
“Actors became the gods and goddesses of the new American religion. And where there are new gods there must be new idols, so the studio heads began a movie guild with the lofty title of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” the film explains. “It was Meyer’s brilliant idea to create the Oscars, where the movie moguls could honor themselves by giving each other awards. In this way, they went from being a group of immigrant Jews to award-winning American producers.”
The Jewish moguls, however, did more than just establish a superficial and self-serving Hollywood cult (which has never boasted more devotees than it does today). According to sources quoted in the documentary, they also used their new medium to create an American “mass culture” based on self-gratification and consumerism — that which would later become known as the “American Dream.”
“I’m not sure that there was an ‘American Dream’ before the Jews came to Hollywood and invented it,” Author/Historian Aljean Harmetz states in the film. “What you had…was an idea of freedom, but you didn’t have what we have today, which is a popular culture that creates dreams — a dream factory.”
[For more on the transformation of America into a gratification-based society through the medium of advertising — also at the hands of a small clique of East European Jews — see Adam Curtis’ brilliant, four-part BBC documentary, “Century of the Self.”]
Film Critic Gabler states: “They created their own America — an America which is not the real America… But ultimately, this shadow America becomes so popular and so widely disseminated that its images and its values come to devour the real America.”
“The grand irony of all Hollywood is that Americans come to define themselves by the shadow America that was created by Eastern European Jewish immigrants…,” Gabler adds. “One could say that the American Dream was really founded in Eastern Europe.”